Back Off My Fat Body

Ragen Chastain - superfat - picture by Substantia Jones for Adipositivity.com
Picture by Substantia Jones for Adipositivity.com

Everyday I hear messages from society about my fat body. I’m told that it’s a sign of moral failing, laziness, it’s a shortcoming, it’s unattractive, blah blah blah –  the negative messages are incessant and ubiquitous.

I spent a lot of my life so intent on hating my body for not meeting the cultural stereotype of beauty, that I never once appreciated it for what it did.  Instead of defending the amazing body that helps me do every single thing that I do every moment of every day, I joined in the chorus of disapproval. I sold my own body out to buy into an arbitrary social stereotype of beauty, and a modicum of begrudging approval that was contingent upon my keeping myself down so that my detractors didn’t have to bother doing it themselves.

If I’ve learned anything on my journey away from self-hatred, disordered eating, and compulsive exercise, it’s that my body deserves nothing less than my unconditional love and full-throated support. So to all of those who would suggest that my body is anything other than magnificent I say this:

My fat body is far too valuable to be treated like a car whose worth is lowered because of some wear and tear.  It’s far too astounding to be a metaphor or a political statement.  It’s far too complicated to run on the same formula used to fuel a lawn mower. It is far too profound to be reduced to a ratio of weight and height.  And it is far too amazing to be judged by anyone.

My fat body is not a representation of my failures, sins, or mistakes. My fat body is not an indication of my level of health or fitness. My fat body is not up for public discussion, debate or judgment. My fat body is not a signal that I need help or input to make decisions about my health or life.  My fat body is the constant companion that helps me do every single thing that I do every second of every day and it deserves respect and admiration.

If you are incapable of appreciating my body and treating it with respect and admiration that is your deficiency not mine; work on it or not, but I do not care. Nor am I interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter so, if you want to be around me, you are 100% responsible for doing whatever it takes to keep those thoughts to yourself. If you are incapable of doing that I will stop spending time with you – I spend my time with people who can treat me appropriately.

I will wield my beautiful fat body like a weapon.  I will love it, I will care for it, I will move it, I will show it in public, I will viciously defend my body against anyone who seeks to classify it as anything but amazing. You’ve been warned – back the fuck off.

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What Do We Tell Our Girls

I am powerfulThis is one of the questions that I get a lot when I give talks – how do we raise girls to love and respect themselves in a world where they are told very clearly that they are not and will never be enough. Girls are rewarded for being “cute” while being flooded with images of a single, unattainable, photoshopped stereotype of beauty.  They are inundated with the idea that their value as a human being is inextricably tied to how close they can get to that stereotype, and how attractive they are to men.

The truth is that there ARE major rewards for meeting the stereotype of beauty and serious consequences for failing.  Fat women get hired less and paid less than their thin counterparts.  Women who refuse to wear make-up are seen as unprofessional – including by other women.  Women who refuse to wear high heels are seen as matronly, unsexy, and unfashionable.   Social approval is very important to a lot of girls and you can get more of it if you meet the standard of beauty; that’s why we love make-over shows so much, because it’s not a new look, it’s a new social standing, and that’s precisely why the idea is so damaging.

So what do we tell our girls?  I’m not claiming for a second to be an expert on childhood development, but here is what I wish more people would have told me:

The world is massively screwed up when it comes to beauty, body image and health.  It’s not you, it’s the current culture that we all live in.  Once you can separate your actual intrinsic self esteem (that you know you are amazing) from the messages that you should base your self-esteem on standards of beauty that were (as my friend CJ Legare says) created to steal your self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to you at a profit, then no matter whether you choose to work the system, reject the system, or something in between you can stay ok within yourself.

I think we should do whatever we can to help girls see their bodies as amazing and worthy of love and care. I think we should give them access to as many different kinds of food and movement as we can without pressure or obligation.  I think we should teach them that those who suggest that weight is the same as health, and weight loss habits are the same as healthy habits,  are no different than those who insisted that the sun revolves around the Earth.  I think we should remind them that “everybody knows” is not the same as the truth.

I think we should be honest with girls that we are giving them a pretty crappy inheritance when it comes to our cultures ideas about beauty and health, and talk about options for their own activism.  Give them role models like Julia Bluhm who got 17 Magazine to take a “no photoshop” pledge.  Help them see that the industries that oppress them run on their time, energy, and money and so if they  take control of those things, they take control of the system. Teach them that one of the worst things that they can do is to try to make themselves look or feel better by making another girl worse.

Girls are going to be bombarded with the message that they have to change themselves to fit in the world. We can choose to give them the message that who they are is already amazing, and that, if they want, they can work to change the world to fit them.

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I Screwed Up

Motivate FinalThis is one of those retrospective blogs where I talk about a screw up I made and what I learned from it.  If this isn’t your thing don’t worry, I’ll be back with my usual blog tomorrow!

It was late Thursday night and I was getting ready to post the blog I had written earlier that day about a truly offensive article. It had been a rough day.  I had been dealing with two troll attacks – one  on this blog which I’m used to and just makes me want to work harder.  The other attack was on the More Cabaret blog, on Tiffany Kell’s beautiful and moving piece about her father’s death and I found it was really emotionally difficult for me to deal with the fact that there are people who would be so absolutely cruel and heartless as to troll that piece.

Then I started getting negative feedback from people, including some inside the SA/HAES community, for writing about Abercrombie and Fitch’s deeply bigoted marketing and hiring policies.  I was told that I shouldn’t have talked about it and given them “free advertising” that I should have ignored it.  I’ve heard that argument, and disagreed with it, before – but it was harder on that day with everything else that was going on.

So there I was, getting ready to discuss another negative article and I realized that I was opening myself up to the same criticism  – that I should just have ignored it and not given her any traffic etc. I’ve been accused of ignoring criticism.  That’s not the case – while I sometimes ignore my critics, the criticism itself can keep me up at night.  So I caved to my fear of the criticism.  I deleted the “Activism Opportunity” paragraph that contained links to give feedback, I deleted the author’s name from the piece leaving only the title of the article that I was criticizing and I posted the piece without the links.

As is often the case, my readers knew better than I. Ngaire Wadman found and posted the links to the article, the Happy Fan Girl posted the Yelp link for the author’s health consulting practice, Cattie posted her Google Site, Crystal Williams posted the Facebook page and readers went to work.  Now the awful piece has been taken down and the owner of the site as well as the author of the offensive piece have made apologies on the site’s facebook page, and I’m wishing I had been brave enough to include the links in the first place.

I respect people’s right to choose to ignore things like this for whatever their reasons, it is a completely legitimate choice.  It’s also completely legitimate to make choices based on a desire to avoid being criticized.  It’s just not the choice that I wish I had made in this instance.

So I screwed up, certainly not the first time, certainly not the last.  Here is what I learned from this one:

  • Rather than avoiding talking about things because it might bring the subject “traffic” or “free advertising”  I’ll just try to get better at presenting my case to communicate more clearly the option to not to participate in fat bigotry and maybe even choose to speak out against it.
  • Nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to deal with the stigma, bullying, and oppression that they face ever, the underpants rule absolutely applies here.
  • Comments that attempt to devalue someone else’s activism for not being important enough, or not ignoring an issue or whatever – however well-meaning or intentioned – will be moderated out of this blog from here on.  I just don’t believe it’s a good use of this space.
  • I don’t believe that bigotry will just go away if we ignore it, or that giving someone “internet traffic” or “free advertising” is such a threat that I should let their behavior continued unquestioned and unchallenged.
  • I believe that risk is the currency of revolution, including the risk of being criticized. I want revolution, so I will try my best to never allow the fear of being criticized lead me to stay silent about things that are important to me.

I feel especially bad that I didn’t just trust my readers to take the links and run with them – I’m truly sorry about that.  The readers on this blog have moved mountains and done what many said was impossible with their activism, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that they dispatched with this in short order.  Thanks for doing what I did not find the courage to do, I’ll try to be as brave as you all next time.

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No Mani for You Fatty

Decorate your body, or don't, at any size!  It's your choice!
Decorate your body, or don’t.  It’s your choice.

Update:  Thanks to feedback from readers on this blog, they’ve taken down this highly offensive piece, and made an apology on Facebook.  Way to go y’all!

Reader Thea sent me an article that expresses a sentiment that I’m disturbed to say I’ve been seeing more of.  In the article, titled “Don’t Hate Me” a woman, who obviously knows that her actions are hateful, waxes on about a *gasp* fat women who dares to go to the same nail salon and…wait for it…gets a manicure.  She wonders why someone who is so far outside the beauty ideal would bother having her nails done.   She says: (trigger warning for general and specific fat hating jackassery and conflation of weight and health)

My point again? Hasn’t something gone wrong when pretty pink nails make someone feel better about their high blood pressure? When a serum helps someone ignore the cell mutations taking place in their body? When a good foundation helps someone smile through their insulin shot?  I adore beauty products and they are truly there for all of us, no matter what our short comings. But priorities! Please.

First of all, how dare she make health assumptions about someone she doesn’t know and then seek to deny them happiness on the basis of her rectal pull guesses when even if she had all of their medical records in front of her this would be wildly inappropriate?  How dare she call fat bodies – amazing fat bodies that breathe and blink and live – shortcomings.  And how dare she suggest that someone who uses insulin (or any other medicine) doesn’t deserve beauty products. What the actual fuck!?  Something has “gone wrong” here but it’s not with any of the people in her examples.

Even if we ignore the fact that body size and health are two different things, neither body size nor health should be considered a litmus test for whether or not we can dress, adorn, and  decorate our bodies.  Just like I have no obligation to comport myself so that men want to have sex with me, I have no obligation to take a pass on beauty products because my body doesn’t meet some artificial stereotype of beauty.

The idea that there is some sort of health hurdle that we have to jump to “deserve” a manicure or good foundation is ridiculous beyond all reason.  I kind of wish I could ask her – how far does it go? If being fat means that, in her estimation, I shouldn’t get a manicure or wear foundation, should I just stop brushing my teeth as well?  Should I run gravel through my hair instead of Herbal Essences?  Screw that.

And let’s not forget that there are tremendous social benefits to meeting the arbitrary standard of beauty, including being passed over in hiring and promotions, based on the stereotype that we lack discipline and ambition and are lazy and unkempt.  One of the ways to mitigate that prejudice (which we absolutely should not have to do) is through clothes (though well fitting appropriate clothes are not always accessible to us), and grooming.  So what this woman is actually saying is that fat people should not have options for attempting to get social standing through traditional means.

Tragically this woman is a mother with two daughters and runs a health center. Talking about her feelings toward her body in one piece she says “And I’m female so I’m never happy!” though according to her bio “it’s safe to say she understands health, beauty and well being from the inside out.”  I beg to differ based on a preponderance of the evidence.  It is a good reminder that so much of the health and beauty advice we get is delivered by people who are supremely damaged by our effed up society, and by identifying and disregarding it we can help to stop the cycle.

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Athletic Privilege and Me

IMG_9103 - CopyI wrote a blog a couple weeks ago about my first official 5K and in it I discussed the fact that I benefit from athletic privilege and I got some questions about what that means.  Recently some stuff has happened that brought it into sharp relief.  About 4 weeks ago I woke up with a pain in my back.  I thought nothing of it and assumed it would work itself out.  Fast forward a week and the constant pain was pretty intense and I could not lift my right arm.  Thankfully I happened to be in Austin where I have a team of amazing healthcare providers (Dr. Robin and Dave I’m looking at you).

It turns out that while ignoring the pain and “working through it” I managed to slip some discs and a tendon and tear some muscles. I wasn’t able to lift my right arm until four weeks later (a few days ago.)  I had to ask for help with day to day tasks, I couldn’t do my own hair.  The pain caused me to cancel things that were really important to me because I just couldn’t deal with the thought of having to leave the house and I’d only been in pain for a month, there are people who live with chronic pain their whole lives.   Things are getting better for which I am very grateful, and this has really reminded me a lot about my athletic/ability privilege:

There are a number of ways that this privilege shows up in my life:

First, by luck of the gene lottery I have some natural athleticism and good natural proprioception and kinesthetic awareness.  I build muscle, in particular Type 2 muscle, very easily.  Second, I was able to be an athlete growing up. Being an athlete in your youth can make athleticism easier to maintain when you’re older.  Also, I got the confidence of athletic achievement.  When I first worked on loving my body for what it does for me and as I live day to day, I didn’t and don’t have to negotiate any disabilities and I had all of that athleticism to fall back on.  Finally, there are social pay-offs that come to me because I am athletic that can negate some of the fat prejudice that I would otherwise face.

So I have privilege.  Of course I also deal with bullshit – like the fact that people suggest that I can’t be an athlete unless I’m thin and plenty of other fat stigma/oppression crap, and yes I’ve worked very hard to develop my athletic skills, but that doesn’t negate my privilege  – like the fact that I get social approval for the hours of work that I put in to physical fitness because I enjoy being an athlete, but I would not receive that same approval if I had spent those same hours becoming a bad ass knitter (and that’s bullshit).  We all have privilege in some ways, typically we didn’t ask for it and we can’t give it away, but we can acknowledge it and we can try to use it to make things better.

Ways that I think we can do that include:

Being loud and clear that, while it’s not a bad thing to be, or talk about our experiences  as, athletes, and while neither of those things are healthist or ableist in and of themselves, being an athlete/exercising/being physically fit etc. doesn’t make us any better or worse than people who aren’t those things for whatever reason, or who choose different hobbies than we do. (In general I think it’s a good idea to avoid feeling good about ourselves by cultivating a belief that we are better than others.)

Being proactive about making sure that the businesses and events we go to, and the events that we coordinate, are accessible to people who have limited mobility, disabilities, and less athletic privilege than we have.

Seeking out information from, and listening to, people whose experiences are different than ours (and who want to discuss these things) to see what we might be able to do to make things more accessible, and to better avoid healthism and ableism.

If you have more ideas, leave them in the comments!

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If I Can Do It, Anybody Can’t

Reality and PerceptionI have been thinking a lot about how people assume that what’s true for them must be true for other people, or that if one person can do it than everybody can do it, and how dangerous that is in terms of how we treat each other and how we view society. I see this all over the place…

Those who love running may wrongly assume that everyone will love running if they just try, or everyone’s body feels the same as their body feels.  This just isn’t true. It’s definitely not true for me – I was a soccer player in school and I ran a ton and the only “runner’s high” I get is when I stop running.  Conversely it would be a mistake to assume that just because I hate running the people who say they love it are lying.

Some people who are part of the small percentage of people who diet successfully think that everyone can be successful because they were and, that those who don’t succeed (never mind that it’s the vast, vast majority of us) must be doing it wrong even though plenty of people who do what they did have a very different result.

Then there are people who think that if everyone ate like they did, then everyone would be their size- so if they are thin and eat a lot, then fat people must be eating tons more than they do.  Of course everybody knows people who eat a ton and stays thin, it’s not surprising that others would eat a small amount and stay heavy.

It doesn’t help that we make role models out of people who are chosen for their ability to be statistical anomalies – we choose our actors, singers, dancers, and celebrities for their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty that is unachievable by almost everyone as our first priority, with their talent often a very distant second.  Then, though we are clear that not everyone can sing, act, or dance, we suggest that everyone could look like these people if they tried hard enough.

We all have things that we are naturally good at, things that we can do with a struggle, and things that aren’t possible for us.  It’s completely foolish to assume that  list is the same for every person.  The idea that “If I can do it, anybody can!” is completely false on every level, and is used to sell us all kinds of things that we want to believe are possible.  Maybe somebody did lose 80 pounds using the Ab-Doer, or 100 pounds with Weight Watchers, but that “results not typical” fine print is there for a reason.  That reason is because, typically, this is NOT the client experience.  Marketing a best case scenario that almost never happens is legal, and as consumers we need to know that.  If I marketed a skydiving school where we don’t use parachutes, with testimonials from people who survived the fall and a tiny “results not typical” note at the bottom of the screen, would people sign up?

Our experiences can be a great guide for us.  They can tell us more about ourselves and our bodies and how we react to various things.  Our experiences are a horrible lens through which to understand the experiences of others, and the more different our lives, the worse this is. “If I can do it anybody can!” is a lie, the truth is “if I can do it, I can do it under the particular circumstances that existed when I did it.”

So if we can’t tell anything about other people’s experiences based on our own, then what can we do to understand others?  We can consider them the best witness to their experience and believe them when they tell us what things are like for them. When I say that I gained a pound a week at Quick Weight Loss Center, people can take a pass on telling me that I must have done it wrong because it worked for them. I’m a grown ass woman and I can measure a quarter cup of rice – I did it fine, it didn’t work for me.

Consider not talking about your experience as if it somehow negates someone else’s.  If someone is discussing how they hated running, consider if you really want to respond with “I thought I hated running too, until I started doing interval workouts!  Now I love it!!!”  Even if that’s true and well intentioned, it can be heard as condescending and dismissive so I’m just suggesting that you consider if that’s the best time for that story.

Not using our experiences as a lens through which to view other people’s can be easier said than done, it can become reflexive to assume that the way we feel is the way that others feel as well.  Often well intentioned but completely inappropriate people say “I just know that when I’m heavy I don’t feel good about myself – there’s no way you can feel comfortable and happy at your weight.”   That’s just not so.  Maybe eating peanut butter for protein changed your life, but it would kill other people so back off.  Our experiences are for us, and us alone.

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If My Life Were a Movie

First they ignore youA little over a year ago a screenwriter named David Fried asked to write a film about my life as a dancer.  I said yes, if I’m honest I wasn’t expecting much to come of it as he interviewed me, my dance partner and my coach.  Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Julianne and I went back to Austin to attend a table read of the finished screenplay with my first ever dance partner – the amazing Andy.   It was a pretty interesting experience hearing people talk to “me” and have someone else answer, and hearing someone else play me.  It also reminded me of something really important.

I think one of the most overlooked forms of size acceptance activism is to just live our lives without apology for our bodies or our size. Fat stigma, stereotyping and oppression are all around us – they try to silence us, tell us that we’re nothing until we’re thin – that we shouldn’t be seen or heard.  By simply refusing to bow to this pressure, we can fight back, and help others find inspiration to do the same.
In a world where just getting out of bed and not hating ourselves is a revolutionary act, leaving the house and doing things without hating or apologizing for ourselves is serious activism.  Just going out to eat with our friends, going salsa dancing at a bar, going to see our favorite band perform and taking up just the right amount of space (which is however much space we take up), is an act of revolution.  As unwilling combatants in the “War on Obesity” being FIP (Fat in Public) is a way that we can fight back.
And we never know who will see us and be inspired. We can’t choose who we are an example to or when, but we can choose what we are an example of.  Dancing is what got me into size acceptance activism (hence the title of the blog.)  I didn’t originally intend to be a fat activist, I wanted to be a fat dancer, but it turned out I had to be a fat activist to get it done.  I wasn’t trying to do anything movie worthy, I just wanted to live the life I dreamed of in the body that I had.  A big part of my activism was, and continues to be, just showing up, being fat, and doing stuff.
So now there’s this movie written about me, and I haven’t really talked about it on the blog because it’s weird to talk about because, well, it’s a movie about me.  But after the table read the actors were asked for their feedback and they were so excited about it, I started to think about it differently.  If it wasn’t about me, I would totally go watch it – I would absolutely love to go to the movies and see a fat main character with an inspirational story that doesn’t involve weight loss, and so now I think that talking about it (even if it’s weird for me) is a good thing to do.
We are working different methods to get the movie produced (finding a producer who is interested, screenwriting contests, pitch competitions, finding a star who is excited to play me – wow that is weird to think about).  No matter what happens, it’s really been a great reminder about the power of showing up and living life without apology.
Now I’m off to see if Rebel Wilson will take my call!

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Weight of the Nation for Kids – Oh No

news liesHBO is upping the ante (and, I imagine the profitability) of their “Weight of the Nation” series with Weight of the Nation – Kids.  Just when you thought that HBO couldn’t conflate body size with health any more, now they’re adding kids to the mix.

The problem with this is that it could be amazing if they didn’t couch it as a war on fat people – and now on fat kids.  There’s a story about a girl who fights to get a salad bar in her school, and a group of teen activists who fight to have healthy, tasty (and local) food in their cafeteria. Their promo stuff goes on about nutritious food options and physical activity.

These aren’t bad things, per se.  But to the extent that they are good ideas, they are good because they are good for all kids, not because they might change the body size of kids. Focusing on weight is shown over and over again to lead to size-based bullying and increased eating disorders but not thinner or healthier people – and let’s remember that those are two different things.

But what does the research say?

Researchers studied the effects of “school based healthy-living programs.”  Turns out that these programs are being instituted in lots of schools, despite the fact that, per the researchers, there is little research on the effectiveness of these programs or any inadvertent harmful effects on children’s mental health.  This study found that these programs are actually triggering eating disorders in kids.  Dr. Leora Pinhas said “The programs present this idea that weight loss is good, that only thin is healthy…We live in a culture that stigmatizes fat people, and we’ve turned it into this kind of moralistic health thing.”

Research from the University of Minnesota found that “none of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain”.

A Canadian study found that eating disorders were more prevalent than type 2 diabetes in kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006. (Children UNDER 12) There was a 15% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in all ages across the same time period.

The Journal of Pediatrics has identified bullying of overweight/obese children as the #1 type of bullying that takes place.

So HBO is not exactly jumping on the success train here.  These studies aren’t difficult to find, it seems to me that if they were really interested in the health of kids and not, for example, capitalizing on a moment in time of massive prejudice toward a group for the way they look to gain profit and political points, they would have found this and changed their focus.

We can have a complete conversation about public health for people of all ages without once mentioning weight.  It’s easy, actually, since there aren’t separate healthy habits for thin people and fat people at any age.  When we talk about foods that are chemically designed to be nutritionally void, make us crave them, and interfere with our sense of fullness, then there are plenty of health arguments to be made, so we don’t need to create a fat panic.  When we talk about the benefits of movement, those benefits apply to people of all sizes.

Kids come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and the truth is we don’t know why, we don’t know how to change the sizes of kids, nor do we know if changing their size would change their health outcomes.  Medical experiments on kids without permission is what HBO is promoting, and it’s wrong.  Public health should be about providing information and access to people of all ages when it comes to food, movement, and healthcare.  Public health should not be about making fat people’s bodies the public’s business or trying to whip people up into a stereotyping, stigmatizing, prejudiced frenzy against part of the population for how they look.   HBO should know better and can do better.

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Why Do Dieters Regain Weight?

Ask QuestionsPredictably, after my blog yesterday called out Weight Watchers for having a failure rate hovering right around 100%, people rushed to blame almost 100% of dieters for “just doing it wrong.”  The myth goes that almost everyone fails at weight loss because almost everyone quits their diet and goes back to their old habits/doesn’t have the willpower to keep dieting/doesn’t do it “right”. That’s not exactly what the research says but before we talk about this let’s look at this from a basic perspective.

First, let’s talk about what “dieting” means (so that we can avoid the “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!” discussion.)  Dieting occurs when someone gives their body less food than it needs to survive in the hope that it will eat itself, thereby becoming smaller.  Call it a diet, call it a lifestyle change, if you are starving your body hoping that it will eat itself resulting in intentional weight loss, congratulations you are on a diet.  (You are completely and totally allowed to diet, I’m just saying let’s call it what it is.)

So why are diets so very unsuccessful long term?  Let’s look at it from your body’s perspective.  Your body isn’t aware that there is social value in meeting an arbitrary stereotype of beauty. Your body can’t actually imagine that there is enough food available, but you won’t feed it because you are hoping that it eats itself and becomes smaller, so it assumes that you live in a circumstance where sometimes you have to deal with starvation. If you add a bunch of exercise to that then your body assumes that there are times when you are starving and have to run long distances.  Your body is very interested in helping you live, and so it reacts to this situation by putting measures into place for the express purpose of gaining and maintaining weight so that you can deal with your life of starvation and running.  And it keeps that up long after your initial weight loss ends.

An Australian research team studied people who had lost weight in an effort to understand some of these changes. A year after their initial weight loss:

  • A hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism – Leptin – was still lower than normal
  • Ghrelin, nicknamed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher
  • Peptide YY, a hormone associated with hunger suppression was abnormally low
  • Participants reported being much more hungry and preoccupied with food then they had prior to losing weight

A year after losing weight these people’s bodies were still biologically different than they had been prior to the weight loss attempt, desperately working to regain the weight – and participants had already regained about 30% of the weight they had lost.  One of the study’s authors characterized it as “A coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight.”

The evidence that exists shows that almost everyone fails at long term weight loss (yes Virginia, even the National Weight Control Registry.  In fact, especially the NWCR!)   I will never cease to be amazed at people who insist that it’s just that almost everyone does it wrong.  That’s like saying that, since some people survive jumping out of planes when their parachutes don’t open, almost everyone who dies in such a circumstance is just falling wrong.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  the truth is the almost everyone can lose weight short term on almost any program, and almost everyone gains their weight back long-term even if they are able to maintain their diet behaviors, with many people gaining back more than they lost. What WW and other diet companies have managed to do is take credit for the first half of a natural biological response (the weight loss), and convince their clients to blame themselves for the second half of that response (the rebound weight gain.)  Sure it’s disingenuous, but at least it’s highly profitable!  They’ve also managed to spread this myth far and wide, successfully making people into PR machines.  They’ve done such a great job of turning people into myth-spreading marketing machines, that diet companies don’t even have to speak up in their defense because other people will be so very happy to do their dirty work for them.

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Screw You Weight Watchers

The only thing you need to wear a sleeveless shirt is shoulders - and we can get around that if necessary!
Sleeveless clothes are for anybody who wants to wear them!

Unfortunately this week I had the misfortune of seeing an ad for Weight Watchers. Now, I understand that they are in trouble financially and so all I can hope is that the expense of these ad campaigns drive them to bankruptcy.

We know that, based on their own numbers, Weight Watchers does a horrible job of helping people lose weight long term – with participants maintaining only a 5 pound loss after 2 years (and paying about $254 per pound in meeting fees alone for the privilege – not counting WW branded food, cookbooks, diet scales etc.).   We also know that they have to disclaim their products’ success every time that they claim it works because they’ve lost deceptive trade practice lawsuits brought against them by the Federal Trade Commission.

The thing that they seem to have going for them is an uncanny ability to convince their clients to credit WW with short term weight loss and blame themselves for the weight regain that almost everyone experiences, and convincing people to keep coming back for multiple rounds of the same  (me included – I’m a 6 time WW veteran.)  When I speak out about Weight Watchers I always get fat people who say “You shouldn’t say it doesn’t work, their program worked for me six times!”  These people have a different definition of “worked” than I do.

The truth is that almost everyone can lose weight short term on almost any program, and almost everyone gains their weight back long-term even if they are able to maintain their diet behaviors, with many people gaining back more than they lost. What WW has managed to do is take credit for the first half of a natural biological response, and convince their clients to blame themselves for the second half of that response.  Sure it’s disingenuous, but at least it’s highly profitable!

This new ad  has actress Ana Gasteyer singing about how she can finally go sleeveless.  So they’ve doubled down on the body shame by getting specific – not only is my fat body generally something I should hate, but I better check out my arms – if they jiggle when I clap then I need to keep them covered – for everyone’s sake.

Screw you Weight Watchers, with your marketing that’s designed to (as CJ Legare says) steal my self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to me at a profit , and your commercials that try to convince me that instead of appreciating my amazing body and everything it does I should hate it for not meeting some arbitrary standard of beauty.  All so you can sell me a product that you know good and well doesn’t work.  So the plan is that I pay you a ton of money to be left the same size as when I started and hating my body more than ever.  Seriously, I can’t say this enough – screw you.  I hope I get to watch you go bankrupt and out of business.  And when that day comes I will dance while my fat arms jiggle in a sleeveless shirt in your honor.

If you’re feeling a little activist today, why not post a picture of you wearing something sleeveless – to the comments below, your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.  Or on WW’s Facebook page.   Tell WW that we will not give up the right to bare arms!

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Become a member: Keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details